A vernal pool is a small, usually temporary body of water that supports a unique biological community. Some vernal pools are not be much bigger than a large puddle, but all vernal pools make an important contribution to the diversity of our wildlife. By taking the time to certify a vernal pool, you document its location and its biology, and provide an important level of protection to the pool’s fragile biological community.
Contact Jane Winn for information.
Video tutorial (in two parts)
The video below, in two parts, is Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s (BEAT’s) tutorial on how to certify a vernal pool in Massachusetts.
Note: You can now fill out all your vernal pool certification forms online at the website of The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and you can even submit those forms online. NHESP has produced a tutorial for this online submittal process.
Photos and audio recordings of vernal pool species
Here are some photos and audio recordings of some of the species mentioned in the above video.
Official guidelines and forms
The Massachusetts Natural Heritage And Endangered Species Program is the agency responsible for certifying vernal pools. Here is a link to their Guidelines for the Certification of Vernal Pool Habitat (pdf) (“Guidelines”). This document also includes the forms that must be filled out and submitted to Natural Heritage for the certification of vernal pools. The information from these forms may be submitted on-line (preferred) or mailed in.
How to find on-line maps of certified and potential vernal pools
To find the Mass GIS map of Certified and Potential Vernal Pool locations in Massachusetts, go to the MassGIS website , and click on “Oliver”, the MassGIS mapping tool.
The map may take a few minutes to load depending on the speed of your computer. A map of Massachusetts will appear. At the top, there is a tool bar with a +magnifying glass. Click on the +magnifying glass, then click-and-drag a box around the area you are interested in. You may need to do this a couple of times to zoom into where you want.
On the right side of the screen, you can select different layers. These are fun to experiment with, and you can find an overwhelming amount of information, but we would suggest starting with as a base layer either:
- Images – USGS Topographic Maps – USGS Topographic Maps, and
- Images – Orthophotos – Color Orthos 2009 (gives you aerial photos)
You can view only one of these map types at a time, (topographic map or ortho photo) not both. You can turn them on and off by checking the box in the Active Data Layer section. If you have both layers checked (turned on) the one that is higher up in the list will show.
To see the Certified Vernal Pools and Potential Vernal Pools look in the Available Data Layers section:
- Conservation/Recreation – Natural Heritage Data – NHESP Certified Vernal Pools
- Conservation/Recreation – Natural Heritage Data – Potential Vernal Pools
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